The annual tradition of hand-wringing over Madden NFL ratings continues. Like many other fan bases around the league, some Chicago Bears fans felt their players got cheated when the official Madden NFL 19 ratings were revealed Tuesday.
Reasonable people will say there’s no use worrying about this stuff. At the end of the day, it’s just a video game and none of it will affect the players on game day.
The rest of us say “no shit, Sherlock” to that.
Those of us who play Madden regularly get that it’s not “real football.” We understand that each player hopefully will earn their worth on the field where it matters. But that still doesn’t mean we can’t be ticked by what the developers at EA Sports throw our way.
Aside from the usual AI quirks and so-so gameplay over the last 10 years or so, player ratings always draw ire from year to year. And it’s usually with good reason. It seems obvious that the developers sometimes use stat lines and national narratives instead of looking at actual game film.
Bears fans who buy each edition every season know that their team has had a share of highly questionable ratings in the past. Well, the latest edition of Madden continues that time-honored tradition.
These three Bears player ratings certainly raised some eyebrows.
Mitch Trubisky: 74 Overall
This isn’t really about Mitch Trubisky having a 74 rating. He still has a lot to prove coming off a mediocre rookie year, which makes the middling rating palatable. Granted, many rookies never come out of the gate on fire, and the previous coaching staff was content with handcuffing the former No. 2 overall draft pick.
The biggest issue is who the developers placed ahead of him. Of all the quarterbacks in the game, 38 are rated higher than Trubisky, making him the worst among starting QBs. While backup Nick Foles (80) is justifiably higher, Jacoby Brissett (76) and rookie Lamar Jackson (79) should be on par at best.
Brissett, who started 15 games for the Indianapolis Colts last year, finished the season with slightly better stats than Trubisky. But the eye test would indicate that there wasn’t a stark difference between the two. Jackson, a former Heisman trophy winner who was drafted No. 32 by the Baltimore Ravens, has a 91 speed rating that helped boost his overall rating. But no other attribute could’ve been lowered to better reflect his status as a first-year QB?
Perhaps, the biggest question mark is having Kansas City Chiefs starter Patrick Mahomes (77) ahead of Trubisky. Mahomes, who also is entering his second season, threw no touchdowns and 35 passes in 2017 but earned a one-point increase from a year ago. Trubisky threw almost 300 more passes in 12 starts and had his rating drop two points.
Again, his rookie campaign wasn’t stellar, but it didn’t seem disastrous enough to rate him lower than a handful of backups and rookies. Given all the Bears have done to help Trubisky his offseason, he could have a significantly better sophomore and see his overall rating shoot up during the some of the early-season roster updates.
Akiem Hicks: 86 Overall
Prior to the official reveal, Akiem Hicks was rumored to have an 85 overall rating, which would’ve been a one-point decrease from last year. Someone at EA Sports must’ve listened to the backlash coming from fans and Hicks himself. The rating ended up staying at 86, which is where it ended during the final roster update in Madden NFL 18.
Still, the status-quo rating should elicit an eye roll from Bears fans. While he doesn’t play a sexy, stat-driven position in a 3-4 defense, Hicks turned in a career year last season worthy of more love from the Madden crew.
When you compare his stats from 2016 to 2017, they’re nearly identical. He had 54 tackles in season and saw a slight increase from 7 to 8.5 sacks. But when you turn on the tape from last year, you see someone who is a nightmare for opposing offensive lineman and quarterbacks.
Yes, a five-technique with plenty of intangibles doesn’t always see a massive jump in Madden. However, a 90 rating or a slight increase at the very least would’ve been warranted for arguably the best player on a top-10 defensive unit from the previous year.
Instead, the top rating on defense, as well as the entire roster, went to this player…
Adrian Amos: 90 Overall
So when did the guys at Pro Football Focus start working at EA Sports? As Ryan Wooden wrote last week about Adrian Amos, he’s a solid tackler and not someone who screws up in coverage a lot. That’s why PFF and the national media love him.
But locally, the beat writers and Bears fans aren’t quite sold. His lack of ability to create takeaways doesn’t create a ton of hope that he’s a long-term starter. That’s what makes the 90 rating a bit peculiar.
Does Amos being the highest-rated Bears player say more about the developers or the Bears’ ineptitude over the last few seasons? Probably both.
Many of the Bears young, homegrown players during the Ryan Pace era have been solid, but none have yet cracked the top tier at their positions. Also, most of the free agent acquisitions have been mediocre, injured or complete busts through 2017. That’s why you’ve never seen a lot of Bears players in the high-80s or 90s in Madden.
On the flip side, the developers had an opportunity to reward a more valued playmaker like Hicks. Instead, they bought into the national love and gave Amos a 10-point increase from his initial rating a year ago. A slight bump into the mid-80s would’ve been more believable, especially for a safety who is solid but nowhere near Pro-Bowl caliber.